I really love gardening. (If my husband were to read that I’d be getting all kinds of side eye just for those four words.) Let’s rephrase, I really love planting and harvesting. I have no use for flowers but growing your own food is so exciting and makes me so proud of each bite I take out of my garden. The problem is, I truly only enjoy those two parts. Planning and planting each seed and little plant gives me so much satisfaction. Every year on Mother’s Day I plan out the garden over coffee in the morning. We buy seeds and plants from our local green house, and spend all afternoon planting our large garden. My husband tries to get me to put down hay or grass clippings but I’m usually bored of it by that point and skip. In the summer and fall I am brimming with excitement and pride as I bring pea pods, lettuce, peppers, green beans, asparagus, rhubarb, and tomatoes (usually no more than 4-5 at a time) into the house. I have cherry, apple, and plum trees that follow the same fate. Every year I am amazed with them in the spring, and then ecstatic that I can pick apples enough for one pie later in the year. Back to the side eye from the beginning, my husband gets incredibly frustrated that I don’t weed, water, or maintain a fence well enough to keep all of my plants healthy and critters, or chickens, at bay. His stance (though he’d never phrase it this way), I’m not cultivating what I’ve sown to reap the highest yield.
You know what? He is absolutely right. I am skipping the middle of the process. Now, I have small children, a full time job, several home projects, and all of the other excuses I could list here. The truth of the matter is though that that part, just isn’t my priority. Would I do it if the top 5 things on my list were gone, I think I probably would. I’m just not going to take time away from those things to get to it. The problem is, even though I know I’m skipping it; I know I would get more out of it if I maintained the work beyond the excitement I feel at the beginning. There is always a part of me that expects more. There is always a part at the end of summer that asks, “why does their (any “they” doesn’t matter who) garden provide more?” The obvious answer, because they tend to it consistently. I know people who are cultivating soil and repairing fences in the fall, starting seeds in the winter under grow lights, planting their own seedlings in spring, and harvesting more abundance than they can eat in the end of summer. Meaning, they are working it all year, even in the off season. These people are going all out all year and I’m putting in a solid week’s worth of work over the course of a year and yet my brain has the audacity to ask why we don’t reap the same.
I like this example in gardening because, it’s so clear. It has such direct cause and effect. If you don’t build a fence, then a chicken eats squash leaves. If you don’t pick the weeds, then they grow bigger and strangle out your peas. Are there other areas of life, that aren’t so concrete, where I’m doing the same thing? Am I bookending the process and missing the middle with my family, marriage, career, home, or health? In some ways, I’m sure I am. There are days when I got one night of good sleep, with 3 nights of less than 5 hours on either side of it, and expect that to turn into more energy. There are times when I communicated really well with my kids, amidst all of the other yelling, that I expect they will be 100% open and honest with me from there on out. I know I’m not the only one. I know there are people out there who go to the gym for a week and are disappointed when they don’t see results from Monday to Friday that Judy Gym Rat has after she’s been there every day for the past 6 months. Why is that so difficult for us to understand?
We are reaping what we sow, and just imagine how much more fruitful that harvest would be if we were consistent through the middle? Sure I can get a few peas and tomatoes by planting them and hoping for the best, but could you imagine the harvest if I cultivated all year round? I have set my kids on a trajectory that will make them solid functioning members of society, cool, what if I could cultivate them in such a way that they lead and impact and change their society in ways I never thought possible? My marriage is built on a foundation of trust and love and mutual respect, awesome, what if I could cultivate it in a way that put all of the fairy tales to shame and made happily ever after just the beginning? The career I’ve chosen is secure, challenging, and impactful, great, what if I could cultivate it the point that the ripple of impact became a wave that allowed me to touch the lives of thousands? We just never know until we consistently work the middle.
Things I’m reminding myself of
Intentional prioritizing is key. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy to be devoted. Because of that, some things are going to have to get book ended and that is OK. Ensure that you know, and have chosen, what you’re giving your time and energy to. If you don’t you’ll end up cultivating your ability to scroll TikTok rather than the areas you actually want to see grow.
We have short attention spans. It is easy to see the importance of the middle steps in the short term but not when it would require weeks or months of work. We would never put a bunch of ingredients into a bowl, leave it on the counter, and come back in 20 minutes and be disappointed it wasn’t cake. This is why we need to set frequent short term goals. I will share one thing I added value in with my boss each week. Or for your kids you could try, I will look my kids in the eye while they are talking to me at least once every day. (this one works well for your spouse too). By doing this you’re increasing the the amount of bookends, having regular wins, and by default increasing your work on the middle.